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13 July 2013

Another rule of literary etiquette: respect logic

There is nothing so apt to deceive
as a confidently expressed piece of
logical absurdity
The Moscow Times published an article in late June about resource exploitation in the Arctic. This is an interesting and important subject, but no-one’s understanding of it was assisted by this sentence: “The Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its gas.”
    I do not care what the experts consider the word “undiscovered” to mean—if indeed it is a term of art among oilmen—because this article was written for the general public. 
     To you, me and Ivan in the Metro, “undiscovered” means that is has not been discovered. That means that nobody knows whether it is there or not. If nobody knows it is there, how can anyone know how much there is of it? And if nobody knows how much there is of it, how can anyone say that it represents a specific proportion of any total quantity of undiscovered material which must, by definition, be of unknown size?
     Logic, gentlemen, please! Logic!

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